Amazon Prime announces new original comedy series, really wants to be Netflix

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Last minute mom gift facilitator Amazon has just announced that it will debut two new original comedy series this month: political satire Alpha House and Silicon Valley start-up send-up Betas.

Alpha House features John Goodman and is written by Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau. The series follows the adventures of a group of Republican senators who rent a house together in Washington, DC. Betas follows four young friends as they attempt to launch a new social networking app. Alpha House will debut on November 15 and Betas will follow on November 22.

Alpha and Beta are a result of Amazon's recent round of voters-choose approach to series development. Last March, the company made 12 comedy and children's series pilots available for free via Instant Video and allowed customers to vote on which got picked for a full season run.

Amazon recently announced it would conduct a similar viewer-based approach to dramatic series development by greenlighting two new hour-long pilots: A police drama from The Wire co-writer Eric Overmyer, and a sci-fi pilot from X-Files creator Chris Carter.

Luring them into Prime

Like nearly every other brand-name tech company with the ability to stream content, Amazon is attempting to mimic Netflix' very successful parlay into original series production. However, Amazon is going about it in a slightly different, non instant-mass-bingey approach. The first three episodes of each 11-episode series will be available for free to all Amazon customers via Amazon Instant Video, then one episode of each will become available on a weekly basis thereafter—but only to Amazon Prime members.

Rather than offering the binge-viewing experience a la Netflix, the bigger draw for Amazon is the opportunity to lure members into its $80/year Prime ecosystem. This access to new original programs will join Prime perks such as buffet-access to its streaming video service, free two day shipping, free Kindle titles, and now free access to books before they are officially released.

If Amazon Prime can successfully create must-see original series a la House of CardsOrange is the New Black, or even Game of Thrones, Bezos and company would have a powerful, perk-laden case why they should be customers' streaming service of choice.

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